Mario Tennis Switch N64 Review – 15-Love to Game, Set, Match
When the Nintendo 64 was around, I was introduced to a lot of sports games through Mario. The biggest one being Mario Tennis, and I remember having my friends over to try out doubles and make our way through the Star Cup to unlock Donkey Kong Jr. Always losing against him in the end, I spent months trying to beat him to be able to unlock him, but eventually gave up but never forgot. I would go on to pick up Mario Tennis every few years for a match or two, but never really diving back in too much. That changed when Nintendo released their Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion with one of the launch titles being Mario Tennis.
Will nostalgia prevail or have I been looking at Mario Tennis through rose-colored glasses all these years? Let’s find out!
The story of Mario Tennis is, well, everyone shows up for Tennis? There really is no story here at all, but it does introduce us to a character that would go one to be another great one from Nintendo, and that is Waluigi! Here for the first time ever! Bringing along his iconic “Whaaa” (imagine that, but really nasally).
The controls of Mario Tennis are really just plain and simple. Tapping A or B will give you a light hit and holding down A will give you a smash hit while holding B is more of a curved shot. If you hold a direction down while curving, sometimes the ball will curve slightly that way, and other times it will drastically change its directions. What differs between the two? Absolutely nothing.
There are 14 characters to choose from at the beginning and 2 unlockable ones after beating the Star Cup Tournament: Shy Guy for winning singles, and Donkey Kong Jr from doubles. Other than that, it is your typical cast of Mario spin-off game characters, ranging from Mario, Wario, Donkey Kong, and Bowser to Peach, Daisy, and Birdo, with varying play styles to help the game feel a little different between each character.
You have Strong characters who can generally hit harder and make it harder to return the ball, Speedy characters that are able to move around the court a lot quicker, Tricky characters who can curve the ball more, and Normal characters that are just a good middle ground of everything. Overall, I never found the difference to be that meaningful and stuck with Boo in both singles and doubles, because he looks cool.
Playing in the tournaments, there are two different options: singles and doubles. Playing them you will always start in the Mushroom Cup, then Flower Cup, until finally the Star Cup. Each one increasing in difficulty. Unfortunately, this also means if you lose you have to start over from the beginning, which isn’t a huge loss, but playing through 30 minutes of easy tennis matches just to get back up to the Star Cup can be a little tedious. Thankfully with the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion, you have the ability to save and load states, making the lost progress a little less trivial if you remember to use the save feature after every match.
The emulation here is where we really start to see the shine come off, though. After some good outings with Ocarina of Time and Paper Mario on the N64 app, Mario Tennis was a bit of a letdown. While the controls are simple enough to translate over to the joy-cons, the input lag was almost unbearable. There is just like this second or two lag sometimes when going to hit the tennis ball when it really matters. This is the first time in the emulation of the N64 games I have come across this. While I have heard some horror stories of some of the other games and their emulation, this is only the tip of the iceberg, but it was enough of an issue that it affected my playthrough quite a bit.
Overall Mario Tennis has not held up super-well. Mixed with emulation issues and no story mode or any real reason to keep playing after unlocking the two characters, this has been the weakest title in the + Expansion N64 lineup yet.
If you want to dive in to play Mario Tennis, you can spend about 2 hours and have seen it all. Unfortunately, this emulation has taken the shine off of Mario Tennis for me, and this was definitely my last trip to the Mushroom Kingdom’s tennis courts.
The introduction of Waluigi
Gameplay is fun
Emulation is subpar
Very light on content